The title of Nick van Woert’s second solo show at Amsterdam’s Grimm Gallery takes its name from a US Army Technical Manual which describes how to transform everyday household objects and materials into weapons.
“Improvised Munition” consists of a row of spindly objects stacked against a wall. They are reminiscent of the pitchforks that 18th Century farmers protected themselves with when there was a lack of swords or guns. “Arsenal” is our modern-day DIY equivalent: the potentially lethal wrenches, hammers and pliers are innocently suspended within their neat circular display. “Erratic” is a construction of clear stacked boxes containing ingredients such as hair gel, chlorine and Coca Cola. Seemingly straight out of a scientist’s lab, this work is a toolkit for the biological warfare of choice.
By taking these mundane materials out of their context, van Woert forces us to question the very progress they represent, a recurring theme in the artist’s oeuvre. Although there is no denying that the show is successfully sinister in its subject matter, another – more positive – conclusion could be drawn. Progress in and of itself is not the problem: it is how we use this newly acquired knowledge. Luckily, the human propensity to do damage does not exist on its own: it is the flip side to a resourcefulness that has the potential to reverse such behaviour – and this exhibition is part of the latter.
The exhibition, Improvised Munition, can be seen at Grimm Gallery, Frans Halsstraat 26, 1072 BR, Amsterdam until 31 March. Grimm Gallery’s next show by artist Charles Avery; ‘New works from the Islanders Project’ can be seen from 5 April.